Microsoft Project (Introduction)

Basics of Microsoft Project

Microsoft Project is really a computer database that uses two main tables of data to keep track of your project. Project uses one table to store information about the tasks of your project and the other for resource information. By using the many views available in Project, you can display your project data from these tables in many different ways.

Microsoft Project screen elements

In this article you will learn following things about Microsoft Project :
  • Gain an understanding of Microsoft Project’s operating philosophy
  • Gain an understanding of the main Microsoft Project screen elements
  • Learn how to use the Ribbon

Views in Microsoft Project :

To help you see, or view, your data, Microsoft Project adopts techniques used in spreadsheets, databases, and graphics packages. 
For example you can see your task or resource table in sheets on the screen. Sheets are similar to spreadsheet programs where data is presented in rows and columns. In fact, many of the operations used in spreadsheets, such as widening columns, deleting data, selecting cells, and the like, are also found in Microsoft Project. 
Views in Microsoft Project


The Microsoft Project screen will vary depending upon the view, table, and filter that is currently active. However, you will need to become familiar with the basic components of the screen as shown below. Understanding the layout of the screen, and its components and terminology will help you in using Microsoft Project.
Basics of Microsoft Project

Ribbon in Microsoft Project: 

The Ribbon displays the commands required to use Microsoft Project. It is made up of tabs (File, Task, Resource, etc) which each contain groups of commands organised into logical order. 

Active pane indicator in Microsoft Project:

The active pane indicator is a vertical bar with a dark colouring that runs down the left side of a screen (or a view). The one above contains the words Gantt Chart so that you know you have a Gantt Chart as the active view. You can actually have two different views open by splitting the screen – only one view, however, can be active because things like the commands on the Ribbon are controlled by what you are viewing. The indicator shows which view is currently active.
Basics of Microsoft Project

Sheet view in Microsoft Project:

Your project’s tasks and resources can be seen as a table, much like a spreadsheet. In Microsoft Project this is referred to as a sheet view.

Scheduling mode in Microsoft Project:

Your project can be scheduled manually (the default) or automatically. This (very important) indicator tells you which mode is currently applicable.

Quick view buttons in Microsoft Project:

There are many ways to change the view of the screen. These four buttons provide quick access to the four most common views saving you the hassle of locating the commands to do this on the Ribbon.

Gantt chart in Microsoft Project:

The Gantt Chart is the world’s most favourite view of a project. It shows your project’s tasks as a series of timelines. It is the default view of Microsoft Project when it is first started and, in reality, will most likely be the one you use most.
Basics of Microsoft Project


For a novice user the Microsoft Project screen can seem intimidating. However, you’ll soon see that it is made up of only three key areas. 

The Work Area in Microsoft Project

The work area occupies the largest part of the screen and contains the data associated with your project. The key point to remember is that a project is made up of tasks and resources and the work area allows you to view your task and resource data in a number of different ways. The work area may show your data in a sheet view, or maybe a chart view like a Gantt chart or maybe even both! 

Basics of Microsoft Project

The Ribbon 

When you need to do something with the data in the work area, such as format it, colour it, analyse it, move it, copy it, change the view of it and much more, you’ll find all of the relevant commands on the Ribbon. The Ribbon has commands organised thematically using a series of tabs across the top. Commands on each tab are further organised into groups of like-commands. It’s not too hard to get the hang of where a command can be found. Remember, a project is simply a view of task and resource data – hey, have a look at the Ribbon and you’ll find a Tasks and a Resources tab! So whatever you need to do with tasks can be found on the Tasks tab, and anything you want to do with resources can be found on the Resources tab. 
Basics of Microsoft Project


The Ribbon is the command centre for Microsoft Project. It provides a series of commands organised into groups and placed on relevant tabs. Tabs are activated by clicking on their name to display the command groups. Commands are activated by clicking on a button, tool or gallery option. Everything you could possibly want to do in Project will be found somewhere on this Ribbon. 

Basics of Microsoft Project

Basics of Microsoft Project

Basics of Microsoft Project

Basics of Microsoft Project

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